The order supports the governor’s budget proposal to generate $75 million to help meet critical priorities. Limited leasing will allow natural gas to be extracted from deep beneath the surface only when there will be no additional long-term disturbance on state forest and park lands. The order will only allow gas to be extracted horizontally through wells located on adjacent private lands or previously leased areas of the state forest.
“With this executive order, I am directing that the commonwealth maintain a moratorium on any additional gas leasing of DCNR lands that involves long-term surface disturbance, such as placing well pads, roads or pipelines in the newly-leased areas,” Corbett said. “This balanced approach will ensure that the special characteristics and habitats of DCNR lands are conserved and protected, and will also provide for historic investments in conservation programs, our schools and quality health care, without raising taxes on Pennsylvanians.”
The governor noted that specific areas and acreage will be analyzed by reviewing interest from oil and gas operators who can access the gas through horizontal drilling without additional disturbance on the surface of DCNR lands.
“Future royalties from these leases will be dedicated to expanding our system by acquiring lands with high conservation value and ecological importance, purchasing privately-held subsurface rights for existing DCNR lands and improving state parks and forests,” Corbett said.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, one of the largest economic advocacy groups in the commonwealth, supported the governor’s action.
“Balancing our efforts to responsibly develop the state’s natural gas resources with the need to preserve our renowned state parks and forests is extremely important to the future of this Commonwealth,” Gene Barr, President and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry said. “We know that we can safely and efficiently protect our state’s natural lands while still benefiting from the economic opportunities that come with growing the natural gas industry and making Pennsylvania a world leader in energy production.”
“The commonwealth’s state forest system has been certified as ‘well-managed’ longer than any other in the country, and continues to receive that distinction after five years of gas development in the Marcellus shale formation,” DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said. “I am confident that DCNR can continue to manage our system for a variety of uses and values, including ecological integrity, outdoor recreation and the environmentally sound extraction of underground resources.”
The executive order is effective immediately. To download a copy, visit the Office of Administration’s website at www.oa.state.pa.us, select “Records and Directives” and “Executive Orders.”
Information about the proposal is included in a fact sheet on the DCNR website at www.dcnr.state.pa.us, choose “Gas Drilling on State Forests” under “Quick Links,” then “Policy and Guidelines.”
Since the Governor’s budget proposal in February, DCNR staff have made presentations for and answered questions from the department’s citizens and natural gas advisory committees, as well as environmental organizations.
Governor Corbett’s budget also includes the initiative Enhance Penn’s Woods, a 2-year, more than $200 million investment in improving state parks and forests that is the largest funding commitment for this purpose in commonwealth history.
“Pennsylvania is home to a world-class state park and forest system, and my proposed budget gives an historic boost to conservation and protection of our natural resources,” Corbett said.
Corbett noted that since 2011, Pennsylvania has added almost 8,000 acres to its state park and forest system. Enhance Penn’s Woods would provide funding for an additional 20,000 acres.
Pennsylvania has 120 state parks totaling more than 200,000 acres, and 2.2 million acres in 20 state forest districts. For more information on state parks and forests, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us.